Skip to comments.Chicago, Houston Consider Cameras in Private Businesses, Homes
Posted on 02/28/2006 8:02:23 AM PST by boryeulb
George Orwell's classic dystopian novel 1984 opens with a surveillance helicopter chopping its blades menacingly through London, peeking inside apartment buildings. The protagonist, a conscience-stricken state worker with no way to blow the whistle, goes home to a "telescreen" watching and reporting his every word, move and even mood.
The totalitarian state apparatus of Orwell's bleak vision was patterned after the world's Communist parties. But many of today's 21st-century Democrat and Republican politicians see no problem with the kind of permanent police dragnet envisioned in the novel.
While Orwell's homeland of the United Kingdom is still the most-surveilled on Earth, recent actions by two big-city mayors will help the United States in the race to capture this dubious honor.
Chicago's mayor Richard Daley, heir to decades of ruthless Democrat machine politics, has been on a camera binge for quite some time now. In late 2004, Daley's Chicago announced plans to install an elaborate network of surveillance cameras in the city. Initially 2,000 cameras strong, the network is designed for ever-expanding, infinite capacity. And this camera network is to have a special feature: software that alerts police to allegedly "suspicious" behavior detected on camera. It sounds like something from the film "Minority Report," but many studies of similar behavioral-algorithm systems have shown high rates of false positives -- "hits" on innocent people. So, watch out -- if the software decides you're "wandering aimlessly," a heavily-armed SWAT team may not be far behind.
That software, paid for with a multimillion dollar grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security, was set to go online in March 2006 -- next month. At the time, Daley justified the surveillance net to the New York Times by saying, "We're not inside your home or your business. The city owns the sidewalks. We own the streets and we own the alleys."
But now that the system's software is set to go live, Daley says cameras on street corners and train platforms just aren't enough for him. Yep, just 15 months later, Daley is ready to admit that he does indeed want eyes inside your private business. He endorsed last week a bill pending in the City Council to require police surveillance in private buildings.
Under the plan, private businesses that remain open more than 12 hours a day and bars that remain open until last call would have to install the cameras also. The bill as written now would not require that businesses hook up their mandatory cameras to city networks, but Chicago Tribune reports that eventually, "the city does plan to link cameras in office and apartment buildings and other private properties to its system."
If you thought that was bad, get a load of what's going on in Houston. There, the police chief wants cameras placed in commercial downtown Houston. As opposed to the situation in Chicago, where the camera plan was introduced with a public-relations focus on placing the cameras in high-crime areas of town, downtown Houston is a high-pedestrian, low-crime area.
What exactly are the cameras there for? (Maybe Houston police will follow the lead of the Alabama State Troopers who, finding themselves at a control panel of cameras in a low-crime area, used them to ogle college girls.)
And here's the kicker: Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt is also advocating that the local building code be changed to require that private apartment complexes install surveillance cameras. Hurtt even said he wants cameras installed, telescreen-style, in private single-family homes if he decides there have been "too many" calls for police assistance from the home.
Hurtt invoked the name of Orwell's dictator in defending his radical proposition: "I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?"
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is supposed to guarantee protection from unreasonable searches. Hurtt's desire, like Daley's to constantly watch presumably innocent Americans on private property is both unreasonable and unconstitutional.
Democrat Mayor Bill White, who appointed Hurtt, has been equivocating about Hurtt's outrageous idea as the public reaction is tested. If enough Houstonians stand up for their rights to private property, White presumably won't push through the extreme surveillance program. But if Texans don’t stand for the idea that a man's home is his castle, the plan will almost assuredly move ahead.
And camera fever isn't confined to just those two cities. Voters in Philadelphia, birthplace of the Declaration of Independence, may have a chance to weigh in. A city councilman there wants to put the idea of cameras in high-crime areas to a popular vote. Philadelphians may want to consider the example of Chicago and Houston before embarking what is likely to be a slippery slope.
VOTE NOW: Do you support proposals in Chicago and Houston that would put security cameras in private businesses and homes?
Click here to vote in our poll.
Who is the keeper of the Houston ping list?
I agree... Americans don't have it in them. I read somewhere that only 4% of all Americans participated openly in the American Revolution until victory seemed assured. I think it is always like that; the 4% willing to die for freedom, and the rest who will take any amount of oppression because it comes from legitimate authority and will simply march right into the "Mandatory Population Reduction Centers".
Oh this article just reminded me: time to buy more ammo.
I don't think they'll go so far as to accept death, at least not en masse. But they won't defy, or advocate defiance of, the law when it's a few people being rounded up and killed by the many.
Think carefully about the Terri Schiavo case.
Millions of people said she was being MURDERED.
But when it came down to it, nobody was willing to actually ATTACK the authorities to stop the murder of an innocent woman. Was it because she was disabled?
There are millions others who think abortion is MURDER. But they oppose any sort of lawlessness to suppress it.
Now think about the Lynching Era, from the 1880s to the 1910s, when every other day someone in America was lynched, generally publicly, often with great fanfare (official photographers and postcards). There were plenty of people outraged, and motions were put before Congress. But in the end, nobody was willing to turn loose force on the local authorities.
Think carefully, even, about Hitler. Americans were willing to let Hitler devour Europe, including England, and kill whomever he wanted to. It was only a direct Japanese attack and a German declaration of war that finally forced the Americans to act.
Philosophically, Law and the Rule of Law is the very pinnacle of American moral values. Respect for the law supersedes obedience to the tenets even of religion. It's an extraordinary feature of American culture, which certainly does make America a very good place to do business: in obedience to their law, Americans will gun people down in order to protect your duly documented and recorded property rights; they'll evict people from their homes of 70 years if you have a court order that lets you develop their land for your own private business purposes, even if you're French.
Lex dura, sed lex.
Doesn't every bar serve until last call? Even if you close at 9:00 PM you would serve until last call, right?
If I owned a business that had to operate under these rules, I would:
Close for 5 minutes every 11 hours and 55 minutes for a regular business and;
Stop serving at my bar without calling "last call"
This way I would be exempt.
I should have put a sarcasm tag on the last part; I believe your statements are all very accurate. As long as it does not affect them directly, en masse they will complain but not act. The Terri Schiavo case and abortion mills are excellent examples, as are Ruby Ridge and Waco.
Libertarian ping.To be added or removed from my ping list freepmail me or post a message here
Well personally i think you need to rethink that a little if this passes you need to be willing to take a cr*p on camera every day and i dont mean be in front of the camera and take a cr*p i mean squat above the camera and takea cr*p on it each and every day until its not functional any more
Lots of businesses employ cameras in and on their premises. I'd think that apartment complexes would have been using them long ago to catch vandals, theives, etc on their property. They use controlled access now.
Individual homes becomes another matter when dictated by the police.
At THEIR discretion with THEIR cameras.
ping for later
At THEIR discretion with THEIR cameras.
Cameras are the next logical step.
The word hasn't been invented yet to describe the depth of loathing I have for these tyrants.